To truly spark curiosity and engage the interests of youth today, we must reach them through what they find interesting. Social media is a powerful tool educators can use to deeply access the learning potential of these youth.
Moreover, social media enables English language learners (ELLs) to have interactions and dialogues with classmates, other ELLs and native English speakers. Proactive and effective educators recognize the learning potential social media can provide, and they actively incorporate it into lesson plans.
In her research for Harvard University, Nicole Mills writes, “Young adults, born in the 1990s or later, are typically referred to as the iGeneration for their consistent and simultaneous use of technology such as iPods, iPhones, iChat and otherwise.”
In “The Case for Social Media in Schools,” Sarah Kessler reiterates this fact, “Almost three-fourths of seventh through 12th graders have at least one social media profile, according to a recent survey by the Kaiser Family Foundation.” In addition, she says that students use social media more than they played games or watched movies.
Teachers of ELLs recognize that social media for language learning provides environments where students can have authentic conversations. These environments enable students to learn through student-centered engagement.
Students can dialogue through spoken or written English language to discuss opinions on assigned topics, interact through blended learning activities, and engage through other tasks as assigned.
Ways to use social media for English language development
Edomodo: Edomodo can be used to help learners review and practice homework. Teachers can create break out sessions to help collaborative groups of students interact for projects or conversation purposes. The embedding tool also allows teachers to provide learners with English language learning resources that they can read and actively comment on. Teachers can also include listening resources with audio and video.
Edublogs: This platform can be used to have students create weblogs for classroom or homework use. This engagement can allow English language learners to practice their writing skills through posting of assigned writing tasks. Furthermore, using a blogging platform such as Edublogs enables readers to post comments. These readers can be classmates or native English-speaking students. Student writers can then reply to reader comments. These interactions provide ELLs with writing and conversation practice.
Twitter: Teachers can learn to use Twitter for writing development. They can also use Twitter for reading and grammar development through Kenneth Beare’s Englishfeed. Students can practice vocabulary and conversations, or they can communicate with the instructor.
Facebook: This popular platform can be used for many learning purposes in listening, reading and writing practice. Students can use the chat function to engage in live conversations through text writing or through face-to-face conversations. Students can also practice dialogues by commenting and replying to others’ posts on pages or in groups. Teachers can create learning groups for language tasks or projects.
Wikispaces: Teachers can use Wikispaces for English writing and engagement. Students can practice vocabulary and grammar. Educators can design authentic English learning contents for Wikispaces.
Google+: Teachers can use Google+ for blended-learning opportunities where students can use Google+ Hangouts for collaborative face-to-face meetings virtually for projects. Students can virtually present projects that can be recorded. They can also use it to interview people (Skype can be used for this as well), practice conversations or have writing conferences.
Diigo: Diigo can be used for academic projects in English, research and writing.
Tumblr: Teachers can use Tumblr also through many diverse means for English language learning. Students can use it for listening, reading and writing practice. Within these domains, students can practice grammar, sentence building and vocabulary.
Pinterest: Pinterest can be used for English learning projects. Teachers can have students create pin projects, participate in virtual field trips, photo journals with conversation bits and much more.
Instagram and Vine: The video features give students opportunities to create videos for practicing language. Classmates can then comment for dialogue and engagement. Teachers can also have ELLs use these platform for creating video book reviews or academic vocabulary presentations.
LiveJournal: This is another platform like Edublogs that allows students to create weblogs for writing and dialogue practice. LiveJournal helps users find partners that they can engage with through their “interests” and “community” tabs.
Additional ideas: Here is an article for reviewing the strengths and weaknesses of using social networking tools for ESL classroom writing. There are also social networking sites and apps specifically designed to help users learn a new language. The State Education Department and The University of the State of New York created a manual that teachers can review for more ideas. It is called Technology-Enhanced Instruction for English as a Second Language (ESL) and Bilingual Education.
There are many other social networking platforms that have not been mentioned but are invaluable to English language learning. Teachers can participate in professional collaborative groups where they can learn more about utilizing social media platforms in the classroom or for blended learning means.
Most of the English-learning ideas for any particular social media platform above can be used with other social media platforms. These ideas can be interchangeable and can be modified to fit the platform and individual instructional needs. Educators can review the sites, brainstorm ways to use the sites and practice using them before learning implementation.